A Life Submerged: The Gray Man Existence, by A. Smith

This article explores concealment and the Gray Man mindset and lifestyle in The End of the World as We Know It (TEOTWAWKI) and survival in contemporary society. The tactics, techniques, and procedures I’ll describe are taken from a military point of view.  It is not intended as an end all. It is merely a perspective on some experiences of deployments in 30 years of service to many backwater countries.  Hopefully my shared experiences will help better understand and prepare you in case something really goes wrong with our economy, natural or man-made disaster, etc. 

The art of Gray Man or “blending in” is of the highest importance.  The key point is to avoid broadcasting that you have nice things, deep resources, or that you are healthy [or are specially trained].  If you do have these things during TEOTWAWKI, fine. 
Just keep them to yourself. 
Blend in with what everybody else has by observing your surroundings and having situational awareness.  Sometimes this cannot be helped such as when  you’re carrying a $1,500 AR-15 while everybody else is toting $100 shotguns. 

It’s a good idea to make that AR-15 less attractive by making it look old, worn out, or otherwise undesirable.  I had a buddy who put on a nice camouflage paint job on his M4 but my did it look ugly after he was finished.  Sometimes having a nice rifle can’t be helped, but don’t gloat or talk about it.  If someone asks you to take a look at your rifle, (I’ve had some local police forces ask this very question), then politely decline and talk about something else.  Sometimes it makes sense just to pull out the old shotgun and leave the $1,500 AR at home, or have it stowed in your beater car.  This brings up a point about nice cars versus beater cars.

In my experiences in the third world the person driving the nice cars, trucks, or SUVs were high ranking governmental officials, U.N. or NATO forces, or the enemy/criminals, or some combination thereof.  Anytime I saw a jacked-up Toyota pickup on steroids I immediately thought “bad guys”.  When I saw SUVs where everyone else were walking, bicycling, or riding a small motorcycle, I thought “really bad guys”.  Even my beater Toyota screamed, “Uncle Sugar has arrived”.  That’s what I thought, anyway.  I had the windows tinted dark to prevent locals from peering inside the cab.  It worked and I stopped being stared at and my stuff never got stolen. 

Most locals in several of the countries that  I’ve visited over the years walked, paid taxis, or hopped on the back of a motorcycle or pickup for a small fee.  Cars looked worn and beat down for the average person. 

I’m not saying not to drive your Lincoln Navigator during TEOTWAWKI, just be aware when you drive these kinds of vehicles during a disaster, people will be eyeballing you.  If you have the muscle and resources to defend that Navigator by all means drive it.  In my opinion, however, it’s better to have a moped or small street legal off-road bike then to drive a nice car.  I’ve owned a Honda XR250L (1991 -1996) and they would be excellent to get around town or in a rural area, and it would only set you back around $1,500.  Be prepared to lock that moped or bike up with a heavy chain and high security lock, however, or it will be stolen.

Having high security locks and chains should be a priority and they should be secured where the resource will be stored.  For instance rifles at a minimum should be behind two high security locks, and be in a metal security rack or a gun vault, (preferred).  The assumption is that most readers have the resources such as rifles, cars, motorcycles, etc. but perhaps have not thought through their security.  A heavy alloy chain hardened makes it harder for criminal to steal your stuff.  I chained locked everything in my topper in the back.  With the chains, tinted windows, my stuff was a secure as I could make it.  Combine a Medeco brand padlock to complete a high security setup. 

On one deployment we shipped our CONEX Box (overseas shipping container) and secured it with a Medeco high security padlock. 

We also put our stuff into Knaack Jobsite Chests and secured them each with a Medeco lock.  When we arrived in theater we linked up with our CONEX Box.  The lock looked like it had been hammered on, but it was otherwise intact.  We had heard that other units had their box’s broken into and stuff stolen.  I’m not saying that having the Medeco locks is the only way to go, but investing in higher security locks will slow the miscreants down a lot.  With all the YouTube videos on how to lock pick lower grade locks, it is just common sense to buy better locks and chain.  The Jobsite Chests were awesome.  The chests are basically contractor grade tool boxes that let contractors store their valuable tools at a job site without them getting ripped off.  They make excellent storage for ammo, tools, electronics, or anything portable of high dollar worth.   Although they are not as secure as a safe or vault, they are “good enough” for smaller dollar items, such as medicine, seeds, food, etc.    [JWR Adds:  Most chains are vulnerable to attacks by bolt cutters, but motorcycle padlock chains are amazingly tough. I would recommend adding a coat of dark paint and sprinkling it with dirt before it is dry, for the full “grunge” look.  Also, metal part can  be highlighted with rust-brown paint, to make them appear old rusty, to the casual observer.]]

Don’t broadcast your excellent health in TEOTWAWKI.  Cough a little within sight of strangers or around people in the local market.  Look dirty or look like they do health-wise.  Ask for medicine you don’t need and you know the local market may or may not have (at sky high prices such as pain and antibiotics that you won’t pay for but makes you blend because you have the same medical needs as a majority of the population).  It can’t be overstated enough that in a TEOTWAWKI a majority will have some medical need, and have need for medication, treatment, or medical devices.  You being the epitome of health will stick out like a sore thumb, and possibly get you killed, unless you are willing to drop the “truth no matter the consequences” mindset.  The locals I interacted with in Africa put a premium on anti-malarial medication.  I would occasionally hand out my extra medication free when I saw a local or someone I knew having a “sweating episode”.  It was the morally right and Christian thing to do.  I did have one savvy local soldier from the host country’s army repeatedly ask over the course of my tour for malaria medication after he saw me give the malarial pills to a local for free.  It was a sore spot with me, I was doing the right thing, but the jerk wanted to take advantage. 

The point is to hide medication, act sick or have the same “symptoms” as everybody else, or have some empathy with the people sick and dying around you.  You might even consider wear a knee brace and walk with a minor limp if the atmospherics and pulse of the majority are sick and dying around you.  
I made a mistake by showing charity to a local and paid nearly every week on that tour because I didn’t conceal the resource and dispense charity secretly.  This did not prevent me from getting out and visiting the local markets, however. 

I would go into the local markets dressed down such as jeans, tee shirt, and small backpack bought locally, (with a large pistol).  They didn’t know what to make of me whether I was a Soldier,  Peace Corps worker, Missionary, Agent, or whatever.  Visiting the local markets did two things; it allowed me to round out my experiences in West Africa by buying local “safe foods” such as Cassava and rice, and it let me get the pulse of the population that lived around me.  I always paid for my vegetables and rice in the local money, I NEVER bought local foodstuffs and trinkets in U.S. greenbacks.  My friends and associates told me to never pay in greenbacks because they jacked up the exchange rate and it made you a huge target for pickpockets and criminals.  I guess the takeaway is to get out to your local market during TEOTWAWKI, pay for things in the going exchange medium (whether silver, gold, medicine, etc.) and get a feel for what’s going on around you.  One of the very first things that disappeared precluding an attack was the market, because the vendors mostly knew in advance that the “bad guys” were coming into town.  So if anything get out and interact with the local market to see what is going on.  I always took a buddy, parked the truck outbound toward the road, paid a local teenage boy(s) to watch the truck, and bought whatever nonsense DVD or trinket the local men offered just before leaving.  I put a log book in place at out barracks and made everybody sign out to include the seven W’s; who, what, when, where, why, when returning, and who you took/resources (truck/weapons/medical kit bag) with you.  Being active by walking to the market during TEOTWAWKI drops the pounds and forces you to interact.  dropped 30 lbs. on my Africa tour and it went a long ways into looking “lean and mean”.

Don’t look like a pork chop when everybody else looks like string cheese.  I remember one particular Afghan Politician who must have pushed 300 pounds.  Everybody else looked to weigh around a buck-forty.  He obviously was on the lamb or otherwise doing well for himself.  His nephew was carrying a no kidding Ingram M-10 submachinegun, when everybody else either carried AKs or some variant of the M16.  Those two stuck out like sore thumbs.  I could see the local Afghans eyeballing those two and literally licking their lips.  I wonder if the fat man and wonder boy made it through the election cycle-probably not. 
I’m not saying having a few extra pounds is a bad thing or trying to make fun of it in some way.  The politician stuck out.  Way out.  That combined with his nephew carrying a weapon system nobody else had in the country made them a target, whether they intended to be, or not.  The point is if you look well-fed, muscular, or otherwise healthy when everyone else is starving you will become a target. 

To blend look like everybody else and wear what most people are seen wearing.  Wear oversize clothing.  This may be easy since in a TEOTWAWKI situation you will most likely lose weight.  Don’t wear tight jeans and white shirts–people can see your physique.  Wearing dark pants and an oversize shirt keeps people guessing as to how much you actually weigh.  Wear a baseball cap or cover your face as much as practical.  Although it’s on my shopping list and I currently don’t own, having a baseball equipped with a couple of infrared LED flashlights attached to the brim  to prevent your face from being video recorded is high on my list. 

 I’ve been in areas where no matter what I did I stuck out, but I still tried. Wearing a cap and sunglasses makes people shy away from you and they don’t stare as much.  If they can’t see your eyes, face, and body, they can’t assess whether you’re an easy target or a hard one.  It keeps them guessing.  I wore long sleeve shirts as much as practical, even in the tropics.  The less skin they saw the better.  This holds true I think in a TEOTWAWKI situation as well.  If people can’t see your profile, they can’t judge.  The same is true for your gait and mannerisms.  This one is a hard one for me and I consciously work on walking “like a civilian”.

I can spot a military or a police person a mile away.  I can spot them in crowds, in shopping malls, airports.  They walk taller and more deliberate.  They walk with authority and purpose.  Don’t be that guy in TEOTWAWKI unless your station in life demands it.  It is a fun exercise to pick out the soldier or cop in a crowd. Try it.  This is one of my biggest giveaways especially if I’m in a rush.  I resort to that “chest out-shoulders back” walk.  If you are military or law enforcement, deliberately slow down and walk “like a civilian”. 

In summary my experiences in third world countries are that people are either starving, or a few meals from it, need medical attention, and will do bad things sometimes such as stealing to get what they need.  The thin veil of morality and consciousness go out the window once the stomach starts grumbling.  Hopefully you have civilian clothing that provides both utility and blends in.  One thing not mentioned is I have a 15 year old beat up Carhart jacket.  It looks like it’s been through a cat fight, but it keeps me warm and for the most part dry. (I coated it with a blend of beeswax and Linseed oil).  The jacket would make me look like every other farmer in the county, (we are the breadbasket of the state).  People will need help, and give responsibly secretly in order to not become a target.  Invest in your higher grade locks, chains, and contractor boxes to secure your valuables.  Lock everything you do not have immediate possession of.  Try to look like everybody else and blend in as much as possible.